On June 8, the humanitarian support caravan “Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola,” composed of some 300 people, left from the Oaxacan municipality of Huajuapan for San Juan Copalá to deliver between 30 and 35 tons of food to the autonomous municipality that has for months been surrounded by members of the group Union for the Social Welfare of the Triqui Region (UBISORT for the Spanish acronym), which is linked to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The caravan was not able to enter the community due to a blockade that UBISORT members had created on the road to San Juan Copalá; the road-block was made up of a line of stones at the location of La Pavimentada and a group of Triqui women guarded by armed men, including Rufino Hernandez Juarez, leader of UBISORT.
Participating in the caravan were residents of San Juan Copalá, members of the Other Campaign, deputies from the PRD and PT, members of the Mexican Alliance for the Self-Determination of Peoples (AMAP), the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers (SME), the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC), other civil society organizations, members of the Catholic church, human rights groups, environmentalists from various Mexican states, as well as journalists and European observers. The caravan was escorted by 500 officers of the State Preventative Police (PEP), who according to accounts recommended that the members of the caravan desist from continuing in face of the UBISORT road-block. After hearing gun shots fired near the blockade, the caravan leaders concluded that conditions were lacking to continue and so decided to return to Huajuapan to ensure the safety of the caravan members.
According to the analysis of Jorge Albino Ortiz, a representative of San Juan Copalá and coordinator of the caravan, state police laid a “fence” on the road to the autonomous municipality on June 8 precisely to protect UBISORT. He asserted that the police actions against the caravan show the state government’s support for this organization and added that the state administration acts in this way to negate the autonomous project that has been developed in the municipality since 2007.
According to Romualdo Wilfrido Mayrén Peláez, coordinator of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace with the archdiocese of Oaxaca, there has since 8 June been considered the possibility that the International Red Cross and the United Nations deliver the tons of food currently stored in Huajuapan to San Juan Copalá. He also mentioned the prospect of organizing another caravan, this one composed entirely of women.
The area remains very tense. In the words of Triqui activist Marcos Albino, “Triqui children have not had been able to have childhoods, given the climate of violence encouraged by the governor Ulises Ruiz.” Mayrén Peláez, legal representative of the archdiocese of Oaxaca, has argued that “what is happening in San Juan Copala is a war: there are disappearances, deaths and aggressions.” For his part, the PRD legislator, Alejandro Encinas, announced in early June that he expected the Organization of American States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint a representative to document human-rights violations in the area.
Solidarity marches also took place on the 8th in Mexico City, Queretaro, and Oaxaca de Juarez. The demonstrations in Mexico City, organized by female Triquis, students, and members of civil society organizations, were met by riot police who attacked their members. In Queretaro, the demonstrators demanded security guarantees for the caravan as well as a speed-up of the investigation by the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) in San Juan Copalá. In Oaxaca de Juarez, members of Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty (VOCAL) engaged in a roadblock, during which electoral propaganda promoting the candidacy of Eviél Perez Magaña (PRI-Green Ecologist) in state elections to be held in early July was burned. According to David Venegas, a member of VOCAL, these activities were coordinated with the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO).
In a statement released on June 10, the editors of La Jornada asserted that impunity in Oaxaca, experienced in relation to the Triqui region, reflects that “the rule of law [there] is nonexistent.” For his part, Miguel Concha, president of the Human Rights Center Fray Francisco de Vitoria, said that the inability of the new caravan to enter San Juan Copalá “confirms that there are armed groups that are out of control or protected by the government Oaxaca,” a conclusion that is shared by David Peña, of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, who said in an interview that “in this region of Oaxaca there is an absence of the rule of law […]. There, the one who commands an armed group, is clearly paramilitary.” Peña added that “we can’t conceive that an armed group has more power and control in the region that both governments [i.e. state and federal]. “
For more information (in Spanish):
They are protected by the police (La Jornada, 10 June)
The real war of the Mexican government, against indigenous peoples: a special report (La Jornada, 12 June)
The International Red Cross is asked to take supplies to San Juan Copala (La Jornada, 10 June)
The prospect that a female-only caravan be sent to Copala is considered (La Jornada, 9 June)
Security in San Juan Copala worsens; attacks reach other communities, it is said (La Jornada, 3 June)
Solidarity marches in 3 locations (La Jornada, 8 June)
Riot-police in the capital obstruct march in support of aid-caravan (La Jornada, 9 June)
Copala: violence and power-vacuum (La Jornada, 10 de junio)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):